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Police to arrest, prosecute billboard, poster vandals



Usman Alkali Baba1

Concerned about the rising attacks and destruction of posters and billboards belonging to opposition political parties in some states, the police have warned governing parties and persons perpetrating the act to desist from doing so or face arrest and prosecution.

The Force Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi, pointed out that defacing posters and destroying billboards were criminal. He called on candidates and political parties to rein in their supporters.

About 99 days to the 2023 elections, our correspondents across the states reported that vandalism of campaign billboards and posters, especially those of respective opposition parties, was on the increase with some instances leading to confrontations and violence.

The Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, said he had received reports of governors encouraging political thugs and sub-national security outfits under their control to disrupt the campaigns of other parties and vandalise billboards.

The National Peace Committee on Tuesday said the conduct of some political actors had been disappointing. In a release signed by its chairman, General Abdusalami Abubakar (retd.); the convener, Revd Matthew Kukah; and head of secretariat, Dr Atta Barkindo, the committee called for a level playing field for all parties in the course of the campaigns.

The release, titled ‘Towards peaceful election campaigns: Our concerns’ added, “It is morally wrong to abuse the power of incumbency by subverting the efforts of those who are in opposition to the status quo.”

Police vow crackdown

In an interview with one of our correspondents, however, the Force PRO said, “It is a criminal offence under the criminal and penal codes and the Electoral Act (2022) to tear or destroy campaign posters or billboards. The police frown upon this act as it is barbaric and poor sportsmanship.

“Candidates should urge their supporters to desist from such, as anyone found wanting will be prosecuted. There’s usually some difficulty in arresting the perpetrators because they usually carry out such illegal activities at night, but anyone caught will be prosecuted and this is a warning to such individuals, groups or parties.”

Oyo suspects arrested

Meanwhile, the Oyo State Police Command said it had arrested some suspects and would soon prosecute them.

The command spokesperson, Wale Osifeso, said, “The command has responded swiftly to every reported and documented cases of malicious damage to billboards and other properties especially as we approach the general elections.

“However, parents, guardians and leaders wielding various degrees of influence are enjoined to prevail on their children, wards and proteges against being used as agents of mischief. We have arrested some suspects in Oyo State and anyone found culpable will be prosecuted.”

In Abuja, the spokesperson for the Federal Capital Territory Police Command, Josephine Adeh, said the command had yet to make any arrest but that usually it mediates in such situations to douse tension.

Also, the spokesperson for the Lagos State Police Command, Benjamin Hundeyin, said, “We haven’t arrested anyone, but if anyone is found culpable, they will be prosecuted.”

Attacks in states

Meanwhile, opposition parties in some states have accused governing parties of intimidating them and using thugs to tear their posters and billboards.

In Oyo State, some opposition candidates accused the ruling Peoples Democratic Party-led government of sponsoring members of the Park Management System, led by Lamidi Mukaila, aka Auxiliary, to vandalise their materials.

About a week ago, an unidentified man was reportedly electrocuted in the process of destroying the campaign billboard of the governorship candidate of the Accord Party, Adebayo Adelabu, popularly known as Penkelemesi.

Also, a House of Representatives candidate in Ibadan North East/Ibadan South East federal constituency on the platform of the Social Democratic Party, Deji Aboderin, said his campaign billboards in Ibadan were destroyed.

Aboderin, who accused some party agents of masterminding the act, said, “All my campaign billboards have been destroyed. At a particular location, my campaign material was on a billboard while that of the PDP candidate, Abass Adigun Agboworin, was at the back. They did not touch his but they destroyed mine. It is sponsored. I call on the security agencies to look into this.”

A former Attorney General of the state and governorship candidate on the SDP platform, Mr Michael Lana, called on the police to launch an investigation into the destruction of campaign billboards of opposition candidates in the state.

In a telephone interview with our correspondents, he said, “I did a petition to the police on the destruction of my billboards but nothing was done. We had 18 billboards and we paid the necessary fees but I doubt if just one is remaining now.

“Those destroying the billboards target the opposition only. They destroyed billboards and posters of the Accord Party, SDP, New Nigeria Peoples Party and All Progressives Congress but they didn’t touch PDP billboards and posters. Those behind this should be arrested and brought to justice.”

The APC Publicity Secretary in the state, Olawale Shadare, also accused the Park Management System of being used to destroy posters and billboards.

Although the chairman of the Disciplinary Committee of PMS could not be reached, the Public Relations Officer, Emiola Jelili, asked opposition parties to look for their attackers within their parties, saying the PMS knew nothing about such attacks.

He said, “We are aware that opposition parties are just looking for ways to tarnish the image of Auxiliary (Mukaila). They should stop accusing Auxiliary wrongfully.”

Kwara SDP, PDP

In Kwara State, the PDP and SDP said they had been facing intimidation from the APC-led government in the state.

PDP Publicity Secretary, Tunji Morohunfoye, alleged that some billboards of the party’s governorship candidate, Alhaji Yaman Abdullahi, at Unity Road and GSS area, on Maraba/Sango Road in Ilorin were vandalised. He said the vandalised billboard was in the same area with that of the APC candidate (and incumbent governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq).

He said the matter was reported to the Department of State Services, stressing that the party had been subjected to subtle victimisation by the APC government in the state.

The Publicity Secretary of the SDP, Ibrahim Sharafadeen, alleged that some billboards belonging to the party’s governorship candidate, Hakeem Lawal, at the Ilorin International Airport area were vandalised.

He said the party was compiling the incidents and would file an official complaint.

The governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Rafiu Ajakaye, and the Commissioner for Communication, Olabode Towoju, didn’t answer their calls.

The Police Public Relations officer in the state, SP Okasanmi Ajayi, said no official report of intimidation had been made to the police by any party.

Gombe’s demolition allegation

In Gombe State, governed by an APC government, the PDP governorship candidate, Jibrin Barde, lamented the demolition of his campaign office located opposite the presidential lodge.

He alleged that the office was demolished by the state Urban Planning and Development Authority because he did not transfer ownership of the site.

He stated, “We applied to the Urban Development Board to provide us with approval so that we can complete the construction of our office. They granted us the approval but subsequently, came and gave us a quit notice.

“We went to court and obtained a court injunction on May 18, 2022 to stop them. In violation of the court order and total disregard for the rule of law, they came on May 23 and demolished the building.”

He said he wrote to security agencies and filed contempt proceedings against the governor (Muhammad) Inuwa and the urban development board but that the matter was still on.

The Special Adviser to the governor on Development Control and Enforcement, Grp Capt Peter Bilal, (retd.), debunked the insinuation that the building demolished was politically motivated.

He said, “It is a party structure and you will see that it is a PDP campaign office whereas Gombe State is under an APC government. Would you want a president in the presidential lodge coming out and seeing PDP structures in front of his lodge or maybe dignitaries? The structure is also on the route to the Government House.”

Meanwhile, the Commissioner of Police, Ishola Babaita, has frowned upon the destruction of campaign billboards in the state.

Zamfara PDP laments

In Zamfara State, shortly after the commencement of campaigns, both the governing APC and opposition PDP accused each other of attacks.

The PDP secretary in the state, Faruku Ahmed Gusau, lamented what he called the bad treatment by the state government.

Gusau said, “The APC-led government under the leadership of Governor Bello Matawalle is not comfortable with the growing popularity of our party; that is why he is always causing problems.”

But the APC publicity secretary, Yusuf Idris, said, “PDP leaders know that they can’t win Zamfara State, that’s why they don’t want peace to reign in the state. Government will not allow innocent people to suffer. That is why whenever the government takes security measures, they complain of intimidation.”

However, the state police command has invited all political parties for a peace accord. The spokesperson for the state police command, SP Mohammed Shehu, said, “The command will make sure that all parties are given an enabling environment to go about their activities. We will make sure that the elections are conducted in a peaceful atmosphere.”

Abia APGA laments

In Abia State, APGA accused the PDP-led government in the state of being intolerant.

The state Chairman of APGA, Rev Augustine Ehiemere, said, “At our campaign office at the Okpara Square, Umuahia, the PDP used their posters to cover the fence of our campaign office. The billboards of our governorship candidate have also been destroyed.

 “There is also that of Ahamdi Nweke (the senatorial candidate of APGA for Abia Central Zone), for which he went to court. We will not tolerate intimidation. Heads of security agencies should caution their officers and men as we will not tolerate that.”

Also, the state chairman of the APC, Kingsley Ononogbu, alleged that the state government did not allow other parties to mount billboards. “In Abia State, PDP doesn’t allow others to raise billboards,” he said.

When contacted, the Public Relations Officer of INEC in the state, Bamidele Oyetunji, said the police, and not INEC, were in a better position to attend to the issue of billboards vandalism.

Meanwhile, the PDP said it was not in its character to do such.

The party’s vice chairman/acting publicity secretary, Abraham Amah, said, “We also have evidence of our billboards removed in some places. As of today, we don’t even see any political party that is a threat. So, there is no reason to do that.”

 

C’River PRP fumes

In Cross River State, the governorship candidate of the People’s Redemption Party, Usani Usani, said his campaign billboards and those of other candidates had been destroyed.

Usani’s media aide, David Agabi, who listed the areas where the incidents happened, said, “Destroying and carting away of Usani’s billboard took place at Ediba Junction, Ugep, Yakurr LGA. There was total vandalisation of Usani’s large format billboard at Odukpani Junction, Odukpani LGA.

“There is also the destruction of his billboard at Okundi Boki, Boki LGA and the mysterious disappearance of the Usani banner within Calabar. Nobody has been apprehended. All we know is that the billboards have been vandalised.

The PDP Publicity Secretary in the state, Mike Ojisi, also said the party was suffering a similar fate in almost all the LGAs.

The new state Police Commissioner, Sule Balarabe, had promised a peaceful election and warned miscreants against disrupting the peace in the state.

In Katsina State, the government has outlawed the use of thugs at political rallies. This, it said, was part of measures to ensure hitch-free campaigns and other political activities.

Governor Aminu Masari’s Special Adviser on Security, Ahmad Katsina, confirmed the development. There has yet to be any case of damage to candidates’ billboards or posters.

In Edo State, the LP accused the government of depriving its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, the usage of the state’s stadium for his campaign. But the state government said the stadium had been shut to political activities while Governor Godwin Obaseki said in an interview that the Labour Party did not apply on time.

Adelabu convoy’s attack

The APC and Accord Party in Oyo State have been trading blames over the attack on the convoy of Adelabu on Wednesday at Tede in Atisbo LGA.

Adelabu reportedly accused his former party, the APC.

But in a statement on Friday, the APC said the accusation was not only ridiculous but also reckless and regrettable.

A statement signed by its publicity secretary, Olawale Sadare, partly read, “We have a good reason to doubt the claims of attacks by the former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria in view of his ceaseless exhibition of desperation to become an elected governor after he had wasted the princely opportunity which came his way in 2019.”

Rivers parties groan

Some political parties in Rivers State have lamented the tense political atmosphere in the state.

About a week ago, suspected political thugs attacked members of the PDP Campaign Council who were pasting the posters of the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, in Eberi in Omuma LGA.

One Udochukwu Nwakpala was brutalised with machetes and shot at. He is still hospitalised.

The coordinator of the PDP Campaign Council in Omuma, Nnamadi Nwogu, said he was also harassed by about 30 young men.

The state Commissioner of Police however said 12 persons had been arrested in connection with the attack, noting that investigation was ongoing.

Similarly, the governorship candidate of the SDP, Senator Magnus Abe, alleged that thugs broke into the venue of a scheduled stakeholders meeting of the party, and that the event could not hold.

While alleging that the state PDP chairman, Desmond Akawor, sponsored the attack, he said the meeting was eventually moved to a member’s private residence. Abe said, “When we got to Egberu, the border into Oyigbo, the road was blocked by thugs armed with guns, machetes, knives and all kinds of dangerous weapons. They said this is the home of Akawor and that we could not enter Oyigbo.”

But in a swift reaction, Akawor in a statement by a media aide, Joy Oyaghiri-Fagbemi, denied the allegation, saying, “In PDP, we don’t have guns, we have God. How can he remotely be attached to an unholy act such as violence?”

The spokesperson for the state chapter of the APC, Darlington Nawuju, said, “There is no other explanation for the draconian orders fouling the political space in Rivers State other than political intolerance. The state is on autopilot. We are now used to all sorts of tactics against the opposition just for self-preservation and to entrench his party in power beyond 2023.”

Secondus reacts

A former PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, has said the party cannot be intimidated by anyone, and that it will continue to strive to ensure the victory for its presidential candidate.

Secondus, who is Atiku’s Technical Adviser, said the candidate would get more sympathy votes at the poll.

He said, “We are not quarrelling or fighting with anybody, we are volunteers with strong convictions that Atiku Abubakar is the best candidate amongst others. We are not moved by any form of harassment; the more you try to intimidate us, the more Atiku Abubakar is likely to get more sympathy votes. If God be for us, nobody can be against us.”

‘Obi’s missing posters’

The Labour Party has accused the Lagos State Government of making it difficult for it to paste the posters of its presidential candidate in the state.

The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Abayomi Arabambi, said many people and supporters of their party had been asking why Obi’s posters were not in Lagos, but he alleged that the state government had given orders to advertising practitioners to find ways of frustrating the party.

He said, “We met a brick wall with most of these private advert practitioners. They said if they (government) sees anything belonging to the Labour Party they will ban their sites. For the advertising practitioners, projects that they will take 250,000 for, they will bill us N3m and when you bring the money, they will tell you ‘they have warned us not to take it.’

“How do you threaten private advertising practitioners? Unfortunately, they (advert practitioners) don’t want to risk it because they pay money to the government so that they can continue to do business. If they see the Labour Party there (on the billboards) their licence may be revoked.

 LASAA reacts

The Head of Corporate Affairs and Public Relations, Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency, Temitope Akande, in an interview with Saturday LENTORLITENEWS said billboard points across the states had been leased to private companies.

He stated, “When it comes to billboards, we have given permits to those who run it as a business, we expect them to do their obligations as agencies.

“They (political parties) won’t come to us for the use of billboards because what we control is the structure, not the content. The content is controlled by APCON and the negotiation to use billboard sited anywhere is between the clients and the agency.

“They should go and meet companies and discuss terms and conditions for using their platform. Ours is that they (advertising companies) meet the agreed terms they have with LASAA on the service fees. They have approval for three years but they pay their yearly rent.”

On the issue of pasting posters, he said, “We told them (political parties) to come and register with us but they have refused to come. They keep pasting posters around to litter everywhere and when we begin cleaning up, they will say we are not allowing them to paste posters, but they have refused to come to regularise their posters.

“To regularise their posters, they need to write to us formally, inform us where they intend to deploy their posters and we will define where they can put it so that other political parties can have their share of the space dimension, location, number of the poster per pasting.”

The state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, in an interview with Saturday LENTORLITENEWS described as untrue claims that it restricted other parties from pasting posters.

He said, “The little I know is that the state is against the indiscriminate pasting of posters to deface the state, which I think is not good. But as a government, we have not said people should not do whatever they want to do that is legal for them to sell their candidate.

“So, anybody who thinks that the state government as an institution will go out and begin to remove people’s posters is preposterous, absurd and not reasonable at all.”

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